The Tour de France Femmes is “going to kick off” when Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) returns to full health from a stomach bug, according to Dani Christmas on The Breakaway.
Van Vleuten revealed that she “couldn’t eat, couldn’t drink” going into Monday’s second stage to Provins but added that she "felt quite normal again" and was pleased to still be in the overall battle.
The pre-race favourite has dug in to keep the yellow jersey within her sights and trails early pacesetter Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) by 1’14” in the general classification after Stage 3.
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“It started two hours after the first stage, I had a real stomach infection,” Van Vleuten told Eurosport.
“I had all the symptoms apart from flu – couldn’t eat, couldn’t drink, super tired. The last thing I was thinking about was racing. So yesterday when I woke up, I was also feeling so s***. I could not even think about finishing yesterday’s stage. So losing less than a minute was a big achievement.
“Today I was quite optimistic because I could have breakfast, I felt quite normal again. But your body is still recovering from a hard 24-hour sickness.”
Van Vleuten fought back after being distanced on the Cat. 3 to Cote de Mutigny on Tuesday, but faded in a lively finale won by Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ Suez Futuroscope).
“I don’t think she would have come out and said it if she wasn’t already on the mend,” said Christmas.
“If this is Annemiek van Vleuten feeling terrible, oh my goodness. When she’s 100% better, it’s going to be exactly as we expected and it’s going to kick off.”
Van Vleuten arrived at the inaugural TDF Femmes on the back of a third title at the Giro Donne just a fortnight ago.
She is expected to shine in the latter part of the race when the mountains arrive, although the peloton must first navigate a punchy Stage 4 that features four categorised climbs and sections of gravelly unpaved roads.
“She was really holding a brave face there, but we just don’t know that knock-on effect from being so ill,” added 2012 Olympic team pursuit champion Dani Rowe.
“We all know when you have a stomach bug what it takes out of your body so hopefully she does feel better tomorrow.
“We need her in this race. She’s such an icon as well, she’s just won the Giro Donne and we need that fight.”
Speaking before Van Vleuten’s illness came to light, Adam Blythe said he was concerned by how Van Vleuten was riding.
“She just doesn’t look good to me. She doesn’t look sharp,” he said.
“Why was she dropped? It was on a climb where she should have been at her best, doing an Annemiek and just tiptoeing up that climb because that’s what she’s very good at.
“So getting dropped at a place where she excels in just doesn’t look great.”

Stage 3 highlights: Uttrup Ludwig stars as Vos keeps yellow

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